Choosing an Automobile Repair Shop: Dealership vs. Local Independent

Local Car MechanicWhen it comes to your vehicle it can be tricky to know where to take your car for the best possible service, especially if you know very little about vehicle repairs or maintenance. It may seem like the best idea to head back to the dealer you purchased the car from in the first place. But, before you make any quick decisions, here are 4 areas to consider before making your choice:

1. Price

The most common difference cited between a dealership and a local, independent shop is the price of the services rendered. A survey done by showed that over 80% of the respondents felt that they were overcharged at a dealership. 59% claimed they were overcharged at least $200, and nearly 20% claiming that they were overcharged more than $500.

This just goes to show that customers feel that dealerships are more expensive (even if that may not be the case), and as a result less trustworthy. 87% of respondents from the same survey felt that independent shop quotes were more affordable than dealership quotes. This can lead to customers choosing to go with an independent dealership due to lower costs. While this may seem like a wise decision, it comes down to truly knowing and trusting the hands you are placing your vehicle into.

Because cheap service does not equal great service.

That is why we always recommend getting to know your repair shop before you commit. This means seeking quality recommendations and asking the right questions of the mechanic, before any work is done on your vehicle, regardless of whether you are looking at a dealership or a local shop.

2. Employees

Another common difference between a dealership and an independent shop is the staff. For a large dealership there will probably be so many employees that you are never interacting with the same one twice. And while you might argue that you have established a relationship with a dealership, because you may have purchased your vehicle there, that really means very little if the staff has changed. To them you are just a number.

Locally owned auto repair shops, for the most part, have a lower turnover rate. This is also a good sign of a high quality shop. If the employees have chosen to work with a certain company for a good number of years this speaks to the quality of the management, as well as the amount of investment placed into the individual employees.

Happy, dedicated employees typically make for loyal customers. And the best managers know this. Whether you choose the dealership or a local shop, notice the turnover rate of the employees. This can tell a lot about where you are choosing to give your business.

3. Expertise

Another idea that often gets passed around is that a dealership knows its vehicles better than a local repair shop. For instance, a BMW dealership will better know the typical issues wrong with a BMW vehicle, based on more extensive experience and knowledge of that particular vehicle make. This is true to an extent: a BMW mechanic is going to be trained to know BMW’s.

But the employees at a local shop may have many more years of experience overall than any mechanic working at the BMW dealership. So, just because they may not restrict themselves to working with one specific type of car, doesn’t mean they are not the more qualified of the two.

The best thing to do in this instance is to ask how many years of experience a mechanic has had. And how many of your model of vehicle has that mechanic actually dealt with. These can be so very illuminating questions. And if you’re uncomfortable with the answers, choose someone else!

4. Warranties and Parts

A common misconception surrounding car repairs is that you must go to the dealer in order to be under warranty. This is definitely not always the case. In fact, most warranties can be used at a local shop quite as easily as at a dealership.

Another concern is the quality of the parts. This will vary from local shop to local shop. Dealerships typically will only use the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) parts. These parts tend to be higher quality, but there are some instances where a different part is just as high quality and might be a less expensive alternative. Dealerships will not give you this option, but a local repair shop will usually be more upfront about the options you have to repair your vehicle.


Whether you ultimately decide to stick with your car dealership or test out some local shops, building a relationship of trust between you and your mechanic is key. Always weigh your options carefully when it comes to your vehicle. Without the right recommendations and qualifications you would never trust your health to just anyone, so don’t trust your car to just any mechanic. Do your research and learn the truth about the differences between the dealerships and the independent shops in your area.